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Research Breakthrough: Scientists Have Found a Potential (and Cool) Cancer Treatment

A recent scientific discovery has found a way to make leukemia cells turn against their brethren and destroy them. Okay, that’s more or less what’s going on, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

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It all started when researchers exposed baby bone marrow cells to antibodies, so that they would mature into certain types of cells. Think Eevee from Pokémon, being exposed to different elemental stones to be turned into Flareon, Vaporeon, or Jolteon (if you don’t know Pokémon, please disregard that analogy). Well, to their surprise, some of the antibodies turned immature bone marrow cells into “radically different” grownup cells. So the scientists came up with a new, intriguing question: what would happen if these antibodies were exposed to leukemia cells? Would they lose their cancerous properties?

The answer was yes—but it was way cooler than that. When exposed to the antibodies for a while, leukemia cells evolved into what were more or less Natural Killer (NK) cells, cells that play a role in fighting off viruses and bacteria. They can pinpoint which cells in the body are unhealthy and then destroy them.

So basically, researchers figured out how to turn cancer cells into good cells that would kill the other cancer cells. The best part? It worked. In a full day, a small number of transformed cells managed to kill off 15 percent of their neighboring cancer cells.

Wicked.

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However, the transformed leukemia cells only killed other leukemia cells. So you couldn’t get a leukemia cell to fight off a breast cancer cell, for example. But in theory, this antibodies concept could be generalized, and we could turn various cancer cells into potential killing machines.

Of course, further studies need to be conducted before antibody treatments become commercial. But if they do, they could have fewer side effects than traditional treatments like chemo. Let’s hope it works out!

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A. Stout is a Whovian, Potterhead, study abroad alumna, and animal lover. A native to West Michigan, she dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world.